All I Want From Loyalty Programs is a Bit of Honesty. Am I a Simpleton?

Honesty and transparency sound old fashioned, but I’m serious.

Don’t talk about ‘enhancements’ that are really devaluations. Your customers resent being lied to.

“Cuts” and “devaluations” shouldn’t become “enhancements.” You’re not really “improving the customer experience.”

Changes that help your marketing program become a profit center rather than a cost center aren’t being made “to better meet the needs of our customers in a changing marketplace.”

You aren’t doing it as a result of “listening to our customers” and your changes aren’t designed to make it possible to “provide greater flexibility.”

Offer a clear value proposition and stick to it. If you’re going to devalue be clear about what you are doing and give plenty of notice.

There needs to be a clear connection between an offer, customer behavior, and a reward. When you offer benefits, customers give their business in order to earn those benefits. Declare by the end of February, say, what the next year’s program will look like. And stick to it.

Tell the truth. Declare it openly, warts and all. And then deliver on your declarations. And your customers will love you for it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you Gary, but unfortunately we live in a world where 99% of the population is conditioned to believe whatever bull the media feeds them. Your article should have finished with “…your [educated] customers will love you for it.” Unfortunately, 99% of their customers cannot see beyond the marketing crap.

  2. Gary, what you say doesn’t just go for businesses.

    It goes for spouses, partners, families, friends, social organizations, doctor- and lawyer- relationsips, sports entities….basically, every facet of our lives in dealing with others.

    We reward (without devaluation!) loyalty from our pets; why should we not expect it from other human beings, single or en masse?

  3. Gary, you can have either honest and transparent communication for consumers, or a free market designed to maximize shareholder profits. You can’t have both.

  4. I agree it’s annoying. It’s not just loyalty programs, that’s how companies and in particular their marketing types, approach anything that’s a net negative for the customer. What gets me is, many of these instances are so obviously negative that I have to think that most customers see right through the marketing double-speak.

  5. I read that they believe those having their miles devalued only fly once a year average. I fly once per month average for 40 years, mostly transcon and overseas. I base my purchases on price and getting full miles flown. I stayed loyal to United and American until I got a confirmation email from United some years back which detailed a puny amount of miles I’d be getting for a flight. I immediately called and canceled, and rebooked on American with whom I’ll stay until they devalue my miles flown. I’ll then go with Alaska as much as possible as long as I earn 100% miles flown. If forced to go fare-based I’ll use JetBlue for it’s transcon nonstops, more room, free WIfi and Southwest for refundability, free TV and cheap wifi. I’ll fly overseas on whoever partners with those and gives me the most miles. I’ll never fly again with American, United or Delta after 40 years until they give me full miles flown, or a better fare-based deal than the others.

    If others would boycott fare-based it would change back, but according to American and United they heard no complaints instead of thousands they should have gotten. Delta was so cocky they told me to go away if I didn’t like it after I flew them for 40 years. They are dead to me. I only hope Alaska will stay strong and realize the competitive advantage they now have, even advertise it to wake customers up to the mega-carriers’ greed. They should get into a public fight with American about continuing to give Mileage Plan customers 100% miles flown for AA, to publicize this further. They should already be advertising the comparison with Delta.

  6. To expect such “core values” is great in principle, but wishful thinking or utter naïveté in practice…

  7. Does anyone know the date when AA changes to fare-based 5 miles per dollar spend? Their website says “middle of the year” which makes me think they’re not going to even announce anything more, just drop the hammer like United did. I don’t even want to book a June flight until I know which side of the “dead to me” deadline it falls on.

  8. @Greg not imminent, sometime in the second half, they’ve got to get the IT done and tested

    United gave 9 months’ notice of the cutover. American made a generic not a date-specific announcement.

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